The Best Photo Editing Software - Basic and Pro

January 12

32 min. to read

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Discover the best photo editing software available and see how it can transform your workflow and editing style.

Many software companies are trying to create the best photo editing software. As a result, the market is full of appealing products that claim to be exactly what you’re looking for. For both amateurs and professionals, photo editing is a crucial part of digital photography. We all want an editor fit for our skills and style.

However, with so many choices, it’s easy to get confused. This article lists the best photo editing software you can try right now. It includes popular editors and perhaps unknown names, complete editing solutions and products that perform a limited set of functionalities very well. This list includes software for all skill levels, budgets, and operating systems.

Our list of the best photo editing software in 2020:

1. Luminar

Luminar is developed by Skylum and has been on the market for several years. It’s designed for photographers of all skill levels and provides complete solutions for organizing and editing images. Luminar supports RAW editing, has a fresh and intuitive interface, and uses AI algorithms to provide content-aware adjustments. It also offers tools for fixing exposure, contrast, color, and white balance, removing noise and fog, correcting perspective and lens errors, and applying special effects.

Luminar provides Photoshop-like features at a more affordable price. It works with layers and masks, supports selective adjustments, and allows you to remove unwanted objects from your photos. All adjustments are non-destructive and automatically saved, so you don’t have to worry about losing your work.

Even for beginners, Luminar is one of the best photo editors. This is because it includes many easy-to-use and professional-looking presets and filters that can be applied to an image and deliver instant results.

Luminar is a great choice for those who want a complete editing solution, with digital asset management, RAW support, and full control over the editing process. It’s available for Mac and Windows and costs $89.

Pros: Easy to use and learn, exquisite presets and filters, content-aware adjustments

Cons: No tools for drawing or graphic design

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2. Adobe Lightroom

Adobe develops two photo editors: Photoshop and Lightroom. Photoshop is designed to do everything from retouching and manipulating images to graphic design and drawing. As a result, it’s hard to learn and complicated to use. So Adobe launched Lightroom as the easier, photography-oriented version of Photoshop.

Adobe Lightroom runs on desktops, mobile devices, and browsers. It also provides a cloud service that allows you to keep your photos synchronized and edit them from different devices. Adobe Lightroom offers exquisite digital asset management, sharing functionality, and integration with other software and libraries. It’s modern and has a neat and appealing interface.

In terms of image editing, Lightroom supports RAW editing and provides basic photo adjustments such as geometric corrections, curves and color mixer, exposure, contrast, and white balance. It works with layers and masks and allows you to make selective adjustments without using complicated selection tools. For fast styling, Lightroom comes with a lot of built-in presets. And to avoid the steep learning curve of Photoshop, Lightroom provides tutorials and learning materials to help you get started.

Adobe Lightroom is one of the best photo editing software tools on the market, but that comes with a price. It’s available for Windows and Mac and costs $9.99 per month.

Pros: Cloud storage to keep images synchronized over different devices

Cons: Expensive and doesn’t have a powerful RAW processor or custom camera profiles

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3. Affinity Photo

All reviews for Affinity Photo show that it has a lot to offer. Affinity Photo is quite new on the market, but many photographers already consider it one of the best pieces of photo editing software available. It has a nice and clean interface, supports RAW editing, and delivers high-quality images. 

Among the best features of Affinity Photo are its full RAW processing, including lens correction, histograms, and EXIF information, HDR editing, batch processing, 360-degree image editing, layers, advanced color controls including levels, curves, and HSL, and a powerful processing engine that allows you to work with large files. It also provides brush and texture libraries and drawing tools.

The only downside of Affinity Photo is the heavy interface that can be hard for beginners. But if you take your time and learn how to use it, Affinity Photo will prove to be a reliable and precise photo editor. It’s available for Windows ($49.99), Mac ($49.99), and iPad ($19.99).

Pros: Powerful RAW processing, precise controls

Cons: Takes time to learn and master

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4. Aurora HDR

Designed for HDR editing, Aurora is a photo editor that provides smart and easy-to-use tools. Its AI-based algorithms deliver high-quality images without halos, artifacts, or chromatic aberrations.

Among the best features of Aurora are bracket merging, LUT mapping, advanced color controls, and tools for removing noise, enhancing details, and adjusting brightness and contrast. Aurora allows you to extend the dynamic range using a single image. And it comes with over 80 built-in presets that transform images in seconds. Presets can be modified and saved for later use.

As any photo editor for professional photographers, Aurora HDR edits RAW images, works with layers and provides non-destructive editing, and supports batch processing. It’s available as standalone software for Windows and Mac and as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop and an extension for Apple Photos. Aurora HDR costs $99.

Pros: HDR editing and many presets for quick styling

Cons: No digital asset management or graphic design functionalities

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5. AfterShot Pro and PaintShop Pro

Corel develops two photo editing programs. The first is AfterShot Pro, a RAW photo editor that aims to deliver the same features as Adobe Lightroom while being four times faster. It provides digital asset management, a fluid workflow, batch processing, integration with Adobe Photoshop, and a customizable workspace. In terms of photo editing tools, AfterShot displays an impressive range of functionality, from lens and camera profiles, lens corrections, and high-quality detail recovery to non-destructive tools, layers and masks, selective editing, and HDR tools. It also provides fast tools for removing noise, retouching skin and improving portraits, and applying special effects using presets.

The second photo editing software developed by Corel is PaintShop Pro 2020. It aims to be an alternative to Photoshop and provides photo editing and graphic design tools. PaintShop Pro offers advanced tools for image editing such as geometric transformations, lens corrections, color, contrast, and white balance adjustments, layers and masks, selective edits, and support for RAW and HDR editing. In addition, it provides tools for creating artwork and artistic compositions as well as templates for collages, social media images, and web design.

Corel targets their programs at different users: AfterShot Pro is mainly for professional photographers while PaintShop Pro is for graphic designers and visual artists.  

Corel products are available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. AfterShot Pro 3 costs $69.99 and PaintShop Pro 2020 costs $79.99.

Pros: A complete solution, well-integrated with third-party plugins

Cons: Too few built-in presets and styles

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6. Pixelmator

If you’re looking for a Photoshop alternative for Mac, Pixelmator may be a good choice. It provides many of the tools you can find in Photoshop and leaves aside those that amateur photographers don’t often use. Pixelmator supports RAW editing, layers, and masks, and uses advanced technology for removing noise and matching colors.

Pixelmator offers painting and drawing tools, handcrafted brushes, and a fluid painting experience. It also provides exquisite controls for working with color and allows you to create amazing compositions. All effects are non-destructive, and you can use them for photography, web design, or graphic design.

In order to make the software approachable for beginners, Pixelmator allows you to customize the interface and groups basic tools that you use frequently. This allows you to grow and discover its features gradually. 

Pixelmator is available only for Mac and costs $39.99.

Pros: Easy-to-use, good painting tools and effects

Cons: Only for Mac, no digital asset management

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7. DxO PhotoLab

DxO PhotoLab is designed for professional photographers and focuses on color accuracy and image quality. It provides an exquisite set of color corrections and adjustments, matches the rendering of over 60 cameras, and supports local adjustments. You can use PhotoLab to edit RAW, high-ISO, and noisy images. DxO PhotoLab provides optical corrections and includes hundreds of tailor-made lens profiles.

It also has digital asset management, batch processing, a customizable interface, and amazing full-screen previews. Plus, it integrates with Adobe Lightroom and allows you to export images and share them on your social media accounts.

DxO PhotoLab is one of the best photo editing software tools on the market. While it provides advanced professional tools, it’s still easy to use and learn. DxO Photo Lab is available for Windows and Mac and costs $129.

Pros: Advanced color tools, custom lens and camera profiles

Cons: Too few styles and presets

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8. Raw Therapee

If you’re looking for free photo editing software, Raw Therapee is a great choice. Raw Therapee is an open-source and cross-platform editor designed for RAW editing and professional photo retouching.

Among its best features are non-destructive editing, advanced demosaicing tools, and support for a large variety of camera models. It provides exposure and color adjustments plus tools for sharpening and noise reduction, black and white conversion, geometric transformations, and lens correction. You can even write scripts and create your own functionality. Raw Therapee has an enthusiastic community that will help you get started.

Raw Therapee is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Pros: Free and open-source, available for many platforms

Cons: No digital asset management, few styles and presets

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9. PhotoDirector

PhotoDirector should be considered an alternative to Photoshop. It provides the same features as other popular editors but at a lower price. PhotoDirector 11 includes AI-based features, powerful layer editing that allows you to combine images, text, and graphics, tools for extracting images from videos and creating videos from images, and a vast library with templates, presets, and effects.

Beginners can make the most of their images thanks to automatic adjustments and one-click presets mixed with manual controls. The interface is well-arranged, with everything at hand and easy to find. And the layer editing may be the best you can find. 

PhotoDirector also provides photo management tools and cloud storage.

Pros: Easy to use, automatic adjustments and AI-based features

Cons: Lacks powerful RAW processing

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10. Xara Photo & Graphic Designer

All editors that aim to be the best photo editing software compare themselves with Photoshop, and Xara Photo & Graphic Designer is no exception. Xara provides photo editing, illustration, and graphic design tools. Among its best features are non-destructive edits, automatic image enhancement (and manual controls to fine-tune every aspect of the image), layers and masks, tools for removing objects, drawing, and handling text, and advanced selection tools.

Xara Photo & Graphic Designer is faster than other editors and requires less memory. It also comes with more than 60 built-in styles for quick image retouching, and you can find more styles in Xara’s Online Content Catalog. Xara Photo & Graphic Designer is available for Windows and costs $99.94.

Pros: Advanced illustration and graphic design tools

Cons: Lacks a powerful RAW processor, only for Windows

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11. Zoner Photo Studio

Zoner Photo Studio is professional photo editing software that helps beginners get a grip on photo editing. It provides automatic edits that transform dull photos in seconds, easy-to-use selection tools, brushes for quick retouching, batch processing, and layer editing.

In terms of photo editing tools, Zoner Photo Studio isn’t a sophisticated editor but provides the basic tools a beginner needs. You can make selective adjustments, apply filters radially or using a brush, use an extensive preset library for quick styling, and edit RAW files.

Besides image editing tools, Zoner Photo Studio also offers templates for collages and calendars, tools for annotating photos, large previews, and digital asset management that helps you keep your images organized. Zoner Photo Studio is available for Windows and costs $49 for two years.

Pros: An easy editor for beginners

Cons: Too few manual controls for fine-tuning adjustments

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12. Photo Lab

Photo Lab is a photo editing mobile application with over 160 million downloads. It delivers filters and special effects varying from magazine cover to seasonal and artistic styles. Effects can be applied easily and without needing to set too many parameters. Photo Lab is designed for the general public.

Still, Photo Lab uses AI technology for face recognition and background replacement. It recognizes hair, skin, and lips and customizes effects for each part of the face. Its face masks and face paint are impressive. While Photo Lab isn’t a professional photo editor, it provides amazing effects that even professional photographers may need from time to time. Considering that Photo Lab is free and available for iOS and Android, you should try it.

Pros: Creative filters and AI-based effects

Cons: A mobile application, not suitable for professional photography

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13. Canva

Canva is famous for its amazing graphic design capabilities. It runs in a browser and has a wide range of templates for designing posters, business cards, apps, T-shirts, and more. Canva allows you to create a team and work together on the same design. Many of its features are free.

In terms of image editing, Canva provides filters and effects, a few geometric transformations, and tools for adjusting brightness, contrast, color, and blur levels. It also allows you to add text and graphical elements, adjust transparency, and add textures. It’s far from a RAW photo editor, but it’s free, runs in a browser, and can save you in an urgent situation.

Pros: Browser-based, offers many free resources for graphic design

Cons: Not enough image editing tools

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14. BeFunky

BeFunky is another photo editor that provides tools for enhancing images, creating collages, and producing graphic designs. It’s browser-based and has a simple and easy-to-understand interface. You can use BeFunky to work with pictures from your computer and social media accounts, or you can use it with stock images provided by the app.

In terms of image editing, BeFunky provides geometric transformations, color adjustments, exposure correction, and tools for improving clarity and contrast, adding blur, and adjusting the lighting. It also allows you to fine-tune adjustments and apply presets for specific styles.

You can use BeFunky for free, but for access to many of its features and presets you’ll have to subscribe for $6.99 a month.

Pros: Free, browser-based, templates for graphic design

Cons: Few photo editing tools, not suitable for professional photography

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15. Capture One Pro

Capture One Pro is a complete and professional photo editor. It supports hundreds of camera models and provides full RAW editing, custom color and lens profiles, tethered shooting, advanced noise reduction, and a customizable interface. Capture One Pro has dedicated versions for Sony and Fuji cameras, studios, and multiple users.

Capture One is famous for delivering excellent image quality and full control over every aspect of an image. It allows you to adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, highlights, colors, details, sharpness, and more. Capture One Pro has powerful color tools such as levels, RGB curves, and film curves that ensure precision and color accuracy. It also includes built-in presets and styles and allows you to create your own styles and install third-party style packages.

But while Capture One is much appreciated by professionals, it isn’t exactly a tool for beginners. It aims to allow you to fine-tune everything and provides complex tools and controls that can confuse beginners. And though it comes with digital asset management and presets, unless you use its full capabilities, you should consider a more basic editor.

Capture One Pro is available for Windows and Mac for $20 per month.

Pros: Professional RAW editing, custom lens and camera profiles

Cons: Expensive and too complex for the general public

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16. Acorn 6

Acorn has many fans of its simplistic, even retro-looking interface. It provides basic photo editing tools such as exposure, contrast, and brightness as well as more advanced tools. Acorn offers non-destructive editing, works with layers and masks, and allows you to make selective adjustments. It also provides filters and photo effects for quick styling.

With Acorn, you can add text over images and use vector tools. It also supports RAW files, batch processing, metadata, brushes, and many file formats. It’s a robust and helpful photo editor, even if it doesn’t have the glamour of some others. Acorn is available only for Mac and costs $29.99.

Pros: Easy-to-use, basic photo editor

Cons: Few presets and advanced controls, not suitable for professional photography

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17. Photo Pos Pro

Another free photo editor, Photo Pos Pro is designed for photography and graphic design. It provides RAW editing, tools for retouching and manipulating images, frames and templates for collages, and special effects.

Photo Pos Pro provides professional features such as layers and masks, curves and levels, filters, and brush libraries for free. In addition, it includes graphic design tools, selection tools, textures and patterns, batch processing, and extension packs.

Photos Pos Pro is available for Windows and Mac.

Pros: Free RAW editing and graphic design tools

Cons: No digital asset management, few presets and styles

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18. Photopea

If you’re looking for a free photo editor to do a quick fix to PSD files, Photopea may be the answer. It runs in the browser and is able to open and edit PSD, XCF, Sketch, XD, CDR, and RAW file formats, alongside the usual image formats. Photopea has many of Photoshop’s functionalities. Even the interface looks similar. So if you’re familiar with Photoshop, you’ll feel at home with Photopea.

In terms of image editing, Photopea offers adjustments for exposure, brightness, contrast, and color, filters and special effects, support for layers and masks, selection tools, geometric transformations, and lens correction. Like Photoshop, however, Photopea has few presets and styles and requires time and precision to create your own style.

Pros: Photoshop-like functionality for free and in a browser

Cons: Lacks powerful RAW editing, hard to use if you aren’t familiar with the Photoshop interface

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19. ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate

With a long history in image and video management, today ACDSee also develops a complete photo editing solution called Photo Studio Ultimate. This editor provides not only a helpful digital asset management tool, batch processing, and sharing functionalities but also powerful RAW and HDR editing, facial recognition, and smart tools for fine-tuning every aspect of an image.

Among the best features of ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate are non-destructive editing, exquisite functionality for working with layers (blending modes, layer effects, auto-align, rulers and guidelines, etc.), powerful RAW editing with support for more than 500 camera models, geometric transformations, advanced color controls, focus stacking, and selective adjustments. In addition, ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate allows you to add text and textures to an image.

ACDSee Photo Studio Ultimate is available only for Windows. You can buy a lifetime license for $149.99 or a subscription for $8.90 per month.

Pros: High-quality image organizing functionality and a powerful RAW editing engine

Cons: Available only for Windows, too few presets and styles

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20. Polarr Photo Editor

Polarr Photo Editor is free photo editing software for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and browsers. You can use it to adjust color, contrast, brightness, and details, apply filters and special effects, overlay textures and images with different exposures, remove noise and sharpen images, work with layers and masks to retouch images or create complex compositions, view histograms, and export images in different formats.

Polarr Photo Editor is fun and easy to use. It offers the main functionalities a beginner may need to retouch and enhance images. However, it doesn’t provide RAW editing, lens and camera profiles, and other tools for professional photographers.

While many of Polarr’s features can be used for free, more advanced features such as masks, LUTs, perspective corrections, blending modes, and presets require a subscription at $3.99 per month.

Pros: Easy-to-use editing tools, available for different platforms and devices

Cons: No RAW editing or custom camera profiles

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21. Photolemur

Photolemur is one of the best photo editing software choices for beginners and the general public. This editor provides smart, automatic tools that enhance images fast and deliver natural-looking results. Photolemur uses AI-based algorithms to recognize faces and objects and apply custom adjustments for each part of an image.

The best features of Photolemur are skin and face retouching, sky enhancement, and exposure compensation. It supports RAW files and can work with multiple images at the same time. Photolemur also comes with many styles to personalize your images. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with layers and masks and you can’t make selective adjustments. But for fixing holiday pictures, it’s perfect.

Photolemur is available for Windows and Mac and costs $35.

Pros: Quick styling and easy tools for beginners

Cons: Lacks advanced tools for professional photographers

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22. GIMP

GIMP, or the GNU Image Manipulation Program, is an open-source, cross-platform photo editor available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It has an interface very similar to the one in Photoshop and provides the same functionalities as the famous image editor. With GIMP, you can even develop your own custom functionality and be part of the large community.

GIMP provides an extensive set of tools for image retouching and manipulation, graphic design, and creating artwork. The most useful of these are support for layers, precise selection tools, drawing and painting tools, adjustments for exposure, contrast, color, and details, and a wide variety of filters.

To be a complete solution, GIMP would need digital asset management, RAW editing, and a style library. Still, it’s free, doesn’t require too many resources, and can successfully complete standard image editing tasks.

Pros: Photoshop-like functionality, free and cross-platform

Cons: Doesn’t support RAW editing or presets

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23. Facetune

Facetune is a photo editing mobile application designed to enhance selfies. While it’s not an editor for professional photography, Facetune is easy to use and has many fans.

This app allows you to whiten teeth, remove wrinkles and blemishes, chisel jawlines, add a smile to a face, brighten eyes and remove red-eye, smooth skin, and reshape faces. It also provides artistic effects, filters, and makeup brushes. The results are natural-looking and ready for social media.

Facetune is free for iOS and Android.

Pros: Fast tools for portrait retouching

Cons: Mobile application only, not suitable for professional photography

In conclusion

There are a wide variety of photo editors that deserve to be known. Not all of them are free, but vendors offer free trial versions to help you decide which one is the best photo editing software for you. Consider your skill level, professional requirements, budget, and technical resources.

Keep in mind that a complete photo editor can replace several products, such as a RAW converter and an image organizer. If you work in a photo studio, tethered shooting can save you time and energy. But everything comes with a price, and sometimes several free editors are able to do the job of an expensive and sophisticated editor.

Don’t forget that each year, new products are launched and old products are updated. While nobody wants to change their workflow all the time, being informed and keeping up with the latest technology may be a good idea.

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